From the time he was a young boy growing up in Palolo Valley on Oahu, John Cruz knew he was destined to play music. Whether inside or outside the home, his earliest memories were filled with song. His Hawaiian grandmother had a beautiful voice and sang in church. His mom loved the Motown sound and had an extensive record collection. His dad played country music and taught John to perform live shows at a very young age. His brothers and sisters were all musically inclined and, along with numerous aunties, uncles, cousins, neighbors and friends, they have surrounded John with the gift of music for his entire life.
Although John grew up in Hawaii, it wasn’t until he moved to the East Coast in 1983 that he developed his own style as a singer songwriter. During his 12 years in the Northeast, John cut his musical teeth in subways, coffeehouses and bars in New York’s Greenwich Village, as well as in the clubs and local haunts from Martha’s Vineyard to the Boston area. While attending the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, John ventured in to acting and dancing, which strengthened his command of the stage. He spent six years in theatre and dance companies, performing everywhere from Lincoln Center to Washington D.C. As a member of the prestigious New World Theater, John played the lead role in “The Dance and the Railroad,” by Tony Award winning Broadway playwright, David Henry Hwang, of M. Butterfly fame. John’s outstanding performance was nationally recognized in the finals of a collegiate drama competition.
John returned to Hawaii in 1995 to help his brother Ernie record his album. At the time, Ernie was in the immensely popular band, the Ka’au Crater Boys. He invited John to play bass with them and to play his own songs during their shows. The exposure to large crowds gave John’s music a substantial fan base before it was even recorded. When his first album, Acoustic Soul was released in 1996, it made an artistic and commercial impact like few other recordings in Hawaiian musical history.
Photo credit: Tor Johnson Photography